If you’re in the mood for an addictive and charming summer read, come hear authors Diksha Basu and Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan read new novels about social climbing, love, and the drive to strike it rich. Basu’s The Windfall portrays the rise of the Delhi rich from the perspective of a nouveau riche family that’s just hit the Internet jackpot; the book made Crazy Rich Asians author Kevin Kwan laugh so hard he almost fell out of bed. Described as Jane Austen in Singlish, Cheryl Tan’s Sarong Party Girls follows a young material girl in the material world of the Singapore party scene, and her quest to nab a foreign husband. Don’t miss these sharp, hilarious novels that mix comedy of manners, rom-com, and social satire in the age of globalized capital. They’ll speak with Jarry Lee, Deputy Books Editor for BuzzFeed News.
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In Diksha Basu’s heartfelt comedy of manners The Windfall (Crown 2017), the middle-class Jha family of Delhi hits the Internet jackpot. They move to a mansion in Gurgaon and engage in an absurd quest to keep up with the Joneses (or the Chopras) next door. The family collects a swimming pool, a gated house, bodyguards, a kitschy reproduction of the Sistine Chapel, and even a Japanese sofa embedded with Swarovski crystals. As Karan Mahajan writes, “Diksha Basu’s The Windfall impressively evokes the world of a middle-class housing complex in Delhi. A master of the intimate detail, Basu can apparently enter any perspective at will. The novel has a gentleness that belies its furious subject: money.” At once funny and sad, the novel explores the Jha patriarch’s new class striving and his son Rupak, who’s trying to balance two love interests (an Indian girl like his mother and a blonde named Elizabeth) while studying for his MBA in the states. The book was acclaimed as a standout book of 2017 by People, Entertainment Weekly, TIME magazine, and Rolling Stone. Kevin Kwan, author of Crazy Rich Asians, writes, “I almost fell out of bed laughing as I read Diksha Basu’s sharply observed satire.”
Rowdy, dizzying, and hilarious, Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan’s Sarong Party Girls (William Morrow 2016) follows an ambitious materialistic young party girl named Jazzy. She’s on the hunt to marry an ang moh–that is, a white man with whom she can produce the ultimate status symbol, a half-white “Chanel Baby.” Jazzy and her three friends jaunt through the KTV lounges, clubs, and parties of after-hours Singapore. A charming deep dive into gender and capitalism, the novel is written partly in Singlish, a unique mix of English, Malay, Mandarin, and other languages. A bestseller and an Amazon Book of the Month, Sarong Party Girls has been described as Jane Austen in globalized Asia. Ruth Ozeki called the book “utterly irresistible” and writes, “I fell in love with Jazzy’s fresh, exuberant voice and trenchant wit. In her debut novel, Tan is saying something profound and insightful about the place of women in our globalized, capitalized, interconnected world.” Tan previously served as a national board member of the Asian American Journalists Association and wrote A Tiger In The Kitchen: A Memoir of Food & Family (Hyperion, 2011) and editor of Singapore Noir (Akashic Books, 2014), she has written for the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, The Paris Review, and Bon Appetit.
Jarry Lee is the Deputy Books Editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. You can follow her on Twitter at @jarry.